Puppy potty training is an exercise in patience and love.
Our little companions want nothing more than to make us happy over their day, including eating, sleeping, and going potty.
Dog potty training typically takes months, and it comes down to teamwork, routine, and positive reinforcement.
When are puppies potty trained?
Legally, puppies can go home from the breeder at 8 weeks in most locations, making this the age when most puppies begin formal potty training.
However, with potty training, certain conditions can give them a leg up (pun intended for boy dogs!).
If the puppies are in a shelter with their parent dog(s), for example, they’ll learn to trot out to the yard when it’s time to do their business.
Potty training should start as soon as you bring your puppy home — potty training an 8-week-old puppy is advisable when possible. Recognize that your puppy may struggle to hold its bladder, so plan to take your dog outside often to prevent accidents.
If your pup has an accident at first, clean the mess up thoroughly or move it outside so your little dog understands that it is supposed to go out. Don’t punish your puppy for accidents.
When it does relieve itself outside, always offer an immediate, positive reward and reinforcement, typically in the form of a veterinarian-approved puppy treat and some well-deserved affection.
Puppies are never too young for positive reinforcement, and it’s the most effective and kindest way to teach a dog what you expect of them.
The 8-week-old puppy training should begin with potty training, an essential skill for your comfort.
How often should a puppy pee?
How often a puppy should pee varies by age and size.
As your little dog grows, it will eventually be able to hold its urine through the night. In the beginning, however, your puppy will need to urinate every 2-4 hours — not unlike having a human child.
If possible, it’s advisable to take your puppy out at night if it is whining or exhibiting signs that it’s time to go potty.
Reward your puppy for good behavior, even if it means you get less time with your pillow. You can lean on puppy pads if you need your puppy to let you sleep through the night.
The time your puppy can wait to go potty will increase as your dog ages.
Potty training a puppy on pads
Puppy pads are thick, absorbent, reusable blankets specifically made for your puppy to pee on.
Another common product is the disposable variety, made of a material like a disposable diaper. Both are usually square or rectangular, and the disposable kind may have material on the back that helps it stick to the floor.
Disposable potty pads are pre-scented to encourage puppies and dogs to pee and defecate on them. Washable, reusable ones are typically not, but once a dog pees on something and scents it, it will be likely to do so again (even after going through the wash) unless specifically discouraged.
Some experts say that puppy pads are not the best puppy potty training tools because they teach a dog it’s OK to pee inside.
As a pet owner, you understand the situation: if you need to leave your puppy alone for several hours and a walker can’t come by to help, your poor dog needs an option – preferably one that is convenient for you to clean up.
Puppy pads are comfortable for puppies since they don’t have to “hold it,” and pads can help you begin potty training. Encourage your dog to use the puppy pad, then move the puppy pad outside so your pup learns to go out there.
Housebreaking puppies is a lot of work — it’s important to remember that your new puppy must adjust to a realistic schedule so you can work toward getting your dog fully potty trained.
When should your puppy get the opportunity to potty?
Schedules and routines are helpful and essential for dogs. Predictability reduces anxiety and helps your dog meet your expectations for your day.
Many dogs look forward to their morning walk, for example.
There are critical opportunities for your puppy to succeed with potty training based on schedule:
In the morning: What do you have to do when you wake up? Pee. Dogs are no different. Ensure you get your puppy outside as soon as possible. Si e the urge to urinate is so strong in the morning, it’s an ideal opportunity to help your puppy succeed — they’re guaranteed to go. This is a prime opportunity for praise to let your dog know it is doing a great job!
Following feedings: Ensure you take your young puppy out around 30 minutes after their meal. To help with potty training (and weight control later in the dog’s life), most veterinarians recommend serving meals at the same time every day rather than free feeding or grazing.
After naps, play, and exciting events: Dogs get excited at the groomer or the vet! Ensure they get a chance to go after their stimulating and social activity, including playtime. Additionally, most dogs need to go out after they wake from a nap.
Time to leave: Set your puppy up for success by allowing it to go potty outside before you leave it at home (or before you take it in the car).
Bedtime: Before settling down for the night, ensure your puppy has one last opportunity to go potty.
What to do if your puppy struggles with potty training
How long does potty training a puppy take? It’s often a work in progress, taking up to a year for puppies to fully get it.
However, by 10 weeks, your puppy should start to show signs of understanding the concept based on the positive feedback (and treats!) you provide when they potty outside.
However, if your puppy still isn’t getting it, there are two steps you should take:
1. Rule out medical causes: Talk to your vet about it. If it’s not an emergency, make sure it’s on your list to discuss with the veterinarian during your puppy’s next series of shots. Your dog may have a urinary tract infection.
2. Hire a dog potty trainer or behaviorist: You can get a trainer to come to your home and assess your puppy and routines for suggestions. If money isn’t a concern, there are also send-away puppy boot camps for potty training.
If your dog whines to go out but doesn’t potty, and your veterinarian has ruled out a medical concern, there could be a few things going on:
- Your dog wants your attention and knows it will have total concentration during outside time. It wants to bond with you on walks. To facilitate this, spend more time with your puppy when you can.
- Your puppy understands that it gets a treat after going outside (rather than understanding that going potty out is what earns the reward).
To reinforce this good behavior, treat your pup after it goes potty immediately, not after you return to the house.
Final thoughts on puppy potty training success
To successfully execute these puppy potty training tips, make sure your mindset is where it should be: your job is to help your puppy succeed at potty training.
What can you do to set up for success? Where does your pup need more support? Could crate training be your secret to success?
When you think about it, you can add or change your routine to ensure your dog’s house training success.